The Wealth of Humans

Interview with author Ryan Avent

Ryan Avent joined the show on June 30, 2018 to talk about his book "The Wealth of Humans" and a few of the things he's observed since it was first published just before the 2016 election. Time has been very good to the book so far -- the news is full of stories directly related to the matters covered in the book.

Listen to the full interview with Ryan Avent from the June 30, 2018 show

Short review: "The Wealth of Humans"

Everyone seems to be aware that we are living in unsettled economic times, but thoughtful analysis about how it came to be (and where things are headed) has been in short supply. Ryan Avent's "The Wealth of Humans" is a bold effort to come up with some answers.

Avent's central premise is that most of the highly-rewarding things that can be done in the private sector have moved away from a capital-intensive model (what some call the "big tool economy") to one that depends on the social interactions among thinking employees. But what hasn't changed, in Avent's analysis, is that a large share of the profits that come from this work will go to the owners -- since, like heavy equipment, a company's culture isn't very portable.

Avent comes to some surprising conclusions along the way -- including a negative outlook on the future economic returns to education, which he suspects may only expand the supply of useful workers and reduce incomes. This counter-intuitive analysis calls for more evidence, but it's worth consideration. In the end, he appears to come to a conclusion that we are being forced into a redistributionist economic model.

This is an uncomfortable conclusion, since redistribution-heavy economic models haven't worked well in the past, but discomfort doesn't necessarily mean he's wrong. If circumstances really are so radically different from the past, the solutions might be radically different as well.

Verdict: An astute survey of the future of labor, with some challenging prescriptions attached.

Brian Gongol

Brian Gongol

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